Salem, VA (April 5, 2010) -
On the verge of a new season, the Salem Red Sox are proud to announce the coalition of young talent that will aim to bring Salem its second straight Southern Division Championship. From an organization packed with potential (ESPN.com's Keith Law ranks Boston's minor league system as the second-best in baseball), Boston has once again delivered an intriguing roster to the Roanoke Valley.
New manager Kevin Boles, who led the Greenville Drive to the South Atlantic League Championship series in 2009, brings along with him many of the same players that helped produced a 73-65 record in the SAL. In fact, the 2010 Salem Red Sox open their season with a roster that includes 20 players who contributed to the Drive at some point last season.
Salem's starting rotation is expected to be anchored by youthful righthanders Stolmy Pimentel and Alex Wilson. A native of the Dominican Republic, Pimentel started 23 games (and made one relief appearance) for the Drive in 2009, going 10-7 with a 3.82 ERA and 103 strikeouts. Wilson, meanwhile, skips over the Low-A level to begin this, his second professional season, with Salem. A 2009 second round selection out of Texas A&M, Wilson dazzled the New York-Penn League last summer while playing with the Lowell Spinners. Though he tossed only 36 innings in 13 starts thanks to a limited pitch count, Wilson surrendered just 10 hits and only two earned runs for a preposterously small 0.50 ERA. He also struck out 33 overmatched batters while merely yielding seven walks.
Pitchers Fabian Williamson and Brock Huntzinger also arrive in Salem as potential difference-makers in the rotation. Williamson, a lefthander from Sun Valley, VA, did everything last year for Greenville, tabulating a 10-5 record with seven saves and a 2.42 ERA in 12 starts and 16 relief appearances. Huntzinger, a righthander who was a third round pick in 2007, started all 25 games he pitched in for the Drive in 2009, finishing 10-9 with a 4.09 ERA.
Joining the aforementioned four on Salem's staff of arms includes righthanders Caleb Clay, Jeremy Kehrt, Michael Lee, Leandro Marin, and Blake Maxwell and lefties Kyle Fernandes, Mitch Herold, and William Latimer. Marin (27 appearances, 3-2, 2.89) and Herold (33 appearances, 5-1, 1.92) were both extremely effective for the Greenville bullpen in 2009.
Complementing a balanced pitching staff will be a formidable offense led by seven homegrown players who were all taken in the top seven rounds of the draft. The catching core features a pair of prospects in Tim Federowicz and Ryan Lavarnway. Federowicz earned a midseason promotion to Salem in 2009 after earning All-Star honors in the first-half, while Lavarnway excelled in his full season for the Drive, finishing third in the South Atlantic League in home runs (21), second in RBI (87), and first in extra-base hits (59). Will Vazquez also returns for a second season in Salem, a valuable and versatile asset capable of playing catcher and nearly every other infield position.
Salem's infield crop should bring excellent defense along with offensive pop, a combination epitomized by first-baseman Anthony Rizzo. Still four months shy of his 21st birthday, Rizzo joined Salem for the second-half of 2009 after an All-Star first half in Greenville. On the year, he hit .297 with 12 homers and 66 RBI. This spring in Fort Myers, Rizzo played in four major league contests in the Grapefruit League, going 4-13 (.308) and belting a towering home run off Tampa Bay closer Rafael Soriano last week, a blast that was witnessed nationally, live on ESPN.
Ryan Dent and Jon Hee, both regulars throughout the 2009 late season playoff push and postseason run, also open the 2010 season in Salem's infield. Dent earned organizational honors as Boston's minor league defensive player of the year a season ago, while Hee brings a splendid glove as well, having won a collegiate gold glove at the University of Hawaii. Drew Hedman, Will Middlebrooks, and Oscar Tejeda are set to make their Advanced-A debut. Hedman makes the jump from short-season Lowell, while Middlebrooks and Tejeda each come to Salem after a stretch in Greenville.
Of the four outfielders on Salem's Opening Day roster, only David Mailman has appeared at the High-A level in the past. Mailman, a seventh round pick in 2007, rose to Salem last season, along with Federowicz and Rizzo, after being named to the SAL All-Star team. Mitch Dening, Alex Hassan, and Pete Hissey join Mailman in the outfield. Dening, a 21-year old Australia-native, earned All-Star honors in the NYPL in 2008 and spent last season in Greenville. Hassan hails from Milton, MA and hit .328 last season in split time between Lowell and Greenville after he was drafted in the 20th round out of Duke. Hissey, meanwhile, is set to make his Carolina League debut at age 20. Formerly a fourth round pick out of Unionville HS in West Chester, PA, Hissey batted .279 and stole 22 bases in 106 games for Greenville last year.
The Salem Red Sox open their season this Thursday, April 8, when they take on the Potomac Nationals at Pfitzner Stadium. The home opener comes to Lewis-Gale Field on Friday, April 16, a festive evening that will culminate with fireworks.
Every game, both home and away, will be broadcast live with Salem radio broadcaster Evan Lepler. The action can be heard on Flagship Station WFIR (AM 960) and will also be streamed for free on www.salemsox.com and www.milb.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.